In life we do not always get what we want. I wanted to take the three game series in Pittsburgh but it was not meant to be. Former Yankees starter Ivan Nova set the tone from the start of Sunday’s game when he struck out the side in the first inning en route to Pittsburgh’s 2-1 victory over the Yankees. The loss gave the series to the Pirates, 2 games to 1.
Give Nova credit, he pitched very well against his former club. He went seven strong innings, surrendering only four hits and one run. The one run came courtesy of a Jacoby Ellsbury home run in the seventh inning. For the season coming into the game, Nova had walked just three batters. He only walked one on Sunday but the batter was a guy who hadn’t picked up a bat since his high school days (Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery). For the game, Nova struck out seven, picking up his second win of the year.
The Yankees had their chances to win the game. They had a runner at third in the eighth with two outs, but Starlin Castro struck out. In the ninth, they loaded the bases but the game came down to light-hitting shortstop Pete Kozma, who had pinch run for Chris Carter the prior inning. After Aaron Hicks had struck out, Kozma came to bat with two outs, but grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game. It’s unfortunate that Hicks was not able to come through as it placed the game in the hands of a career .221 hitter.
Kudos to Jordan Montgomery. After the game, he admitted that he didn’t have his best stuff. Loading the bases in the first inning with no outs, he escaped with only one run across home plate. He would go on to pitch six innings, allowing only two runs. Pirates were able to get seven hits off him. He walked two batters while striking out five. The two walks proved costly as both batters eventually scored (the only runs the Pirates would score in the game). Montgomery’s ability to throw a “quality game” despite not having his pitches speaks volumes about the heart of this pitcher. I am anxious and excited for his next start.
Even though the Yankees lost the series to the Pirates, they were in all three games and could have won either of the losses. As the younger guys gain more Major League experience and assuming the veterans continue to hit, the Yankees will begin to win these types of games with greater frequency. The bench is going to look much stronger soon when Didi Gregorius returns and Ronald Torreyes retakes his utility role from Kozma.
Sadly, Greg Bird was not able to get untracked in Pittsburgh. His 0-for-3 day dropped his batting average to .104. I still think he is very close so hopefully Fenway Park will ignite his bat. If not, we’ll probably start to see a few more Chris Carter starts at sprinkled in at first in the coming days.
I am glad that we’re headed back to American League parks so that Matt Holliday can knock the rust off and resume his role as the team’s designated hitter. His offensive capability is too great to be limited to pinch-hitting in National League cities.
The Yankees have today off and will begin a three game series in Boston tomorrow against the Red Sox. The Red Sox are coming off a 6-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday that kept the Yankees 1 1/2 games behind the O’s in the AL East. The Red Sox (11-8) are just a 1/2 game behind the Yankees (11-7). The Orioles play this evening (at home against the Tampa Bay Rays) so they could extend their AL East lead to two games. Or going the ‘glass is half full’ route, drop back to only a one game lead.
The Yankees have a chance to make a statement in Boston. While they may or may not win the series, they need to prove that they can hang with the Red Sox. Boston won the head-to-head battle in 2016, 11 games to 8. The Red Sox swept the first season series last year (April 29th to May 1st). It would be great if the Yankees could return the favor. My primary goal for the series is three competitive games with the Yankee hitters attacking the strong Boston rotation. If they can get to the Boston bullpen early, I really like their chances. The last run through the Yankees starting rotation was mostly a collection of off-nights so hopefully this run through the rotation will yield superior results. So begins the Battle of the AL East…
Have a great Monday! Rest up and be ready to take charge on Tuesday!
Credit: Joe Sargent/Getty Images
What a difference a day makes!
Chris “All he does is hit home runs”¹ Carter made my Saturday a fun day after Friday night’s loss. Michael Pineda, like CC Sabathia the day before, did not have his best stuff and only lasted five innings. I had felt prior to the game that Pineda needed to be at his best with talented young right-hander Jameson Taillon on the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but fortunately, the Yankees were able to get to Taillon (thanks Starlin!). The game was tied at 5 in the eighth when Chris Carter came to the plate to pinch hit for Dellin Betances. The inning had looked like it would be over quickly when the first two Yankee batters flied out (if Bird’s fly could have gone just a few more feet…). But an error by Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier allowed catcher Austin Romine to reach base and shortstop Ronald Torreyes followed with a single. Carter is paid to do one thing and against Pirates reliever Felipe Rivero, he did it. His beautiful swing was met with “it is high, it is far, it is gone!”. The Yankees had taken a commanding 8-5 lead.
The Yankees would score a couple more times that inning, thanks in large part to another error by the Pirates, but the signature moment was the ninth inning even though the game was already out of reach for the Pirates. In what is becoming a typical day at the office, Aaron Judge got all of an Antonio Bastardo pitch to send the ball screaming 116 mph for a ‘no doubt about it’ home run. When all was said and done, the ball had traveled 457 feet. It is starting to feel like not a question of ‘if’ Judge can hit a ball 500 feet, but ‘when’. Five batters, including Matt Holliday, have hit longer home runs this year (a total of five feet separates the leaders) but it’s only a matter of time before Judge takes charge of the Statcast leaderboard.
Credit: Joe Sargent/Getty Images
The Yankees won the game, 11-5 . They head into today’s game with a chance to take the series against an old friend, Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova. Jordan Montgomery, wearing Nova’s old jersey number, will take the mound for the Yankees.
Despite the win, the Yankees failed to gain any ground on the Baltimore Orioles (12-4) who took another game from the Boston Red Sox. So, the Yankees remain 1 1/2 games out of first with an 11-6 record. I get the feeling that the Red Sox (10-8) will be playing like a wounded dog when the Yankees get to Fenway Park on Tuesday.
I was glad to see manager Joe Girardi put Aaron Hicks in Saturday’s lineup. He acknowledged that he needs to find ways to put Hicks’ hot bat into the game. But really, left field is the only viable solution. The $153 million man is actually producing in center (he’s still dead to me despite the .323 batting average) and Aaron Judge is becoming a marquee event in right. Despite Chris Carter’s home run, I still think first base should stay exclusively with Greg Bird. I know that he’s only hitting .111 after another 0-for-4 performance, but he seems to be hitting the ball well even if they are going for outs. It is only a matter of time before the balls start falling in (or leaving the park). I think he’s close to catching fire.
I always keep an eye on former Yankees to see how they are doing. I guess it is a Jay Buhner/Fred McGriff disorder, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for former Yankees prospect Rob Segedin. Traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deal that originally brought Ronald Torreyes to New York, the third baseman recently got another call up to the Dodgers when they placed former Yankees pitcher Rich Hill on the DL. Two days later, Segedin was on the DL himself with a strained right big toe. The taste of the Major Leagues can be so elusive for many and it certainly is for the 28-year-old former Yankees third round draft pick.
Credit: David Crane/Southern California News Group
Have a great Sunday! Let’s hope this is another Fun Day!
¹A nod to Buddy Ryan’s infamous quote “All he does is catch touchdowns” in reference to Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter.
With the impending returns of shortstop Didi Gregorius and catcher Gary Sanchez within the next few weeks, the Yankees have some decisions to make. Granted, Kyle Higashioka goes back down to AAA to become the starting catcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, retaining his seat at the table (the 40-Man roster). But for Pete Kozma, the future is less certain.
There’s no reason to protect Kozma on the 40-man roster. It is possible that the Yankees stash him at AAA when Didi returns for insurance, but, realistically, why? As I type this post, shortstop Tyler Wade is the top hitter for the RailRiders with a .386 batting average (17-for-44 in 11 games). He has also stolen 6 bags. With Ronald Torreyes moving back to the super-sub role, Wade represents the greatest shortstop insurance going forward. Therefore, if it’s my call, Kozma is DFA’d upon Didi’s return. If he clears waivers, assign him to AAA. If he is claimed, so be it. It’s no great loss. The downside to assigning Kozma to AAA is the fight for playing time with Wade. So, I’d probably just cut him outright and send him on his way.
The decision then becomes what to do with the 40-man roster spot vacated by Kozma. It probably doesn’t make sense to give it to Wade (not yet anyway). I could see the Yankees giving it to a pitcher like Tyler Webb to be part of the bullpen shuttle throughout the summer. The harder decisions about the 40-man roster will have to be made after the season and before the Rule 5 Draft in December. For now, the roster decisions are about who can help us today, not tomorrow.
I know that we didn’t quite make it, but there is something about a ten-game winning streak that I’ve always loved. It cures all ails. It is so fun to go more than a week without feeling the agony of defeat. The Yankees missed making it ten-in-a-row by two games but it was still a fun ride. The sad part is that with a few clutch hits here and there and no error by the aforementioned Kozma, the Yankees probably could have extended the win streak to nine. But as they say, that’s the way the ball bounces, so I guess I’ll just have to look forward to the next streak to achieve my self-fulfilling objective for ten.
Coming into the season, I really had my doubts about Luis Severino and his ability to be a quality major league starter. I was starting to feel that his stuff played best in the bullpen. At a quick glance, his stats do not tell the story. He is 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA in three starts. It sounds very pedestrian, but then you look at 20 innings pitched (an average of nearly 7 innings per game) with 27 strikeouts. More impressive is his 0.80 WHIP (14 hits and 2 walks). He is currently behind only five pitchers for the lowest WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). The only pitchers with better WHIP are Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins (0.45), James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners (0.57), Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros (0.62), Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers (0.70), and Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox (0.74). Severino is in very good company. I know it’s just three starts but this is a significant improvement over last year and it does appear to be sustainable.
Credit: Noah K Murray/USA TODAY Sports
Thanks to the improved performances of both Severino and Michael Pineda, there is reason for optimism with every starter in the rotation. This also supports that the Yankees could have another extended winning streak coming their way in the not-so-distant future. Good times at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees signed LHP Nestor Oronel, 20, to a minor league deal. The Pittsburgh Pirates released Oronel after three years in March. My first thought was that Oronel is just fodder for minor league starting pitching depth. But being a lefty and only 20 years of age (he doesn’t turn 21 until December) leads me to believe that he might be viewed as a reclamation project.
Gleyber Torres has been placed on the 7-day Minor League DL with his shoulder injury. Manager Joe Girardi said on Wednesday that he just has some inflammation in the shoulder and shouldn’t be down too long. So, it does sound as though the team (and Torres) dodged a bullet, and he will be back in the Trenton Thunder lineup soon.
The Yankees returned to the win column with Wednesday night’s win over the Chicago White Sox, 9-1. Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff, but he still went 7 innings, giving up only a single run. He struck out 6 and walked two while scattering six hits. The Yankees need this guy to be hitting on all cylinders, and he’s getting closer. It was a great offensive night as every starter had a hit, and the team was homer happy with four.
The Yankees only allowed former closer David Robertson to get one save opportunity as they took the three game set from the White Sox, two games to one. At 10-5, the Yankees are percentage points behind the Baltimore Orioles (9-4). They lead the third place Boston Red Sox by a game, although the Red Sox can cut the distance by a 1/2 game with a win today (an off day for the Yankees). Since the Orioles also play today, the Yankees could either be 1/2 game behind the O’s at the end of the day or they could be the AL East Leaders.
Friday, the Yankees head to Pittsburgh for a weekend series with the Pirates. Like the White Sox, the Pirates feature a few former Yankees. Catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, and Pitchers Ivan Nova and Wade LeBlanc. You could loosely throw Gerrit Cole into the category although he was never officially a Yankee. He was a former top draft pick who never signed. Although Nova wears Andy Pettitte’s number (46) for Pittsburgh, his first start against his former team will pit him against his old number (47) when he matches up with Jordan Montgomery on Sunday.
The Yankees deserve this day off. They’ve exceeded expectations and have been a very exciting team to watch. It’s amazing to think it’s only going to get better when Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius are back and Greg Bird is hitting like we know he can.
Have a great Thursday! One in row, Baby! Let’s make it two on Friday!
But at least it wasn’t for BIG money…
Good for Ivan Nova to get his new contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. All things considered, I am still glad that he is an ex-Yankee. Even though the Yankees are in desperate need of help in the starting rotation, I wasn’t looking for a reunion with the right-hander.
One headline I saw did strike me as odd. It basically said that Nova had signed but not for big money. 3 years, $26 million. Maybe it’s just me, but $26 million is definitely “big money”. Okay, if Nova pitches for Pittsburgh like he did after the trade from the Yankees last year, he’ll be a bargain. But still, receiving more than $8 million per year is still a heck of a lot of money for a historically inconsistent pitcher.
But the more telling headlines are about how great Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is. The so-called “Pitch Doctor” is getting the credit for Nova’s turnaround performance in Pittsburgh last year. The underlying tone of the message is that the Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild is inadequate. If Searage is so great, perhaps the Yankees should find a way to pry him from the Pirates.
I know that Rothschild has a good reputation, but at some point, someone has to be held accountable for the inconsistencies of the Yankees starters. Masahiro Tanaka rebounded to have a very solid 2016 campaign but the work put up by Michael Pineda continues to be frustrating to say the least. Luis Severino was dreadful as a starter. I can’t say that I’ve ever looked at Rothschild as an “amazing” coach. It would be nice to have one of those for a change.
Kevin Long is an excellent hitting coach. Yet, when Yankees hitters couldn’t hit, he lost his job and now flourishes in Queens. He remains better than the Yankees current array of hitting coaches. I personally felt that Long was a better hitting coach than Rothschild is a pitching coach. Long was held accountable and so too should Rothschild. The Yankees have too much at stake with their young, unproven starters to fail miserably because they didn’t have the right guy at the helm.
Be careful what you ask for…
In my last post, I stated my preference for Masahiro Tanaka to be named the Opening Day starter. This, of course, was before Joe Girardi announced that Tanaka, in fact, would be the starter. So of course, Tanaka promptly bombed as the Yankees were throttled by the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-1.
The start didn’t change my opinion that Tanaka was the best choice. Michael Pineda is the next best starter on the staff, but he didn’t deserve the nod over Tanaka. CC Sabathia may have been the sentimental choice if for no other reason than the consecutive years he has been the starter. But his performance last season (injuries combined with the continued gradual decline) didn’t warrant the start either. Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t going to get it, and neither was Adam Warren. The right choice was made by Girardi even if the results indicated otherwise.
My concern, more than anything, is the health of Tanaka’s arm. Yes, it was only one start and one start does not a season make. But going to last year after he returned from the DL, the results of not been great. If Tanaka has to learn to be a different pitcher at age 26 to lessen the strain on the elbow ligament, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be successful. A solid outing would certainly help allay some of the concerns, but inevitably, I do feel this road leads to Tommy John surgery. The sad part is that if he undergoes the surgery at any point this season, we most likely would not see him again until 2017, with 2018 being the target for a full return to health.
It’s too bad the Yankees do not have the quality starters to go six deep. I’d rather lessen the load on Tanaka by spreading the distance between his starts.
Tanaka’s health certainly increases the spotlight on Adam Warren, as he’ll need to be the man to bridge the gap. Today he is covering for Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova, but later in the summer, it could very well be for Tanaka.
Larry Rothschild is certainly earning his paycheck. Earlier in the year, I didn’t think we’d see Luis Severino in the major leagues this year. Now, it appears to be only a matter of time.
Another prospect lost…
It is hard not to get excited about certain prospects, and that certainly held true for catcher Austin Romine who was once billed as one of the organization’s best catching prospects along with since traded Jesus Montero. Romine has the bloodline (his father Kevin played for the Boston Red Sox among other teams and his brother Andrew plays for the Detroit Tigers). I was hopeful that Romine would use spring training to show the team that he belongs in New York. It didn’t happen with a sub .200 batting average. Perhaps the odds were against him since he was out of options and John Ryan Murphy, his competition for the back-up catching spot, is the better hitter. Still, it was sad when the team announced just before the start of the season that it had designated Romine for assignment. Maybe there’s a chance that he stays in the organization, but it seems inevitable that a trade is the more probable outcome as there isn’t much of a chance Romine could slide through waivers (teams need catching help too much, just ask Boston). Romine has been an outstanding team guy and he’ll serve some organization well when/if he finally gets his chance at the Show.
I am still not an A-Rod fan but I have to admit that he carried himself well in spring training and has done everything the team has asked. If the Yankees suddenly found a way to rid themselves of A-Rod, I’d be all in favor. But since that’s not going to happen, I’ll have to give A-Rod credit for not rocking the boat.
I still can’t bring myself to cheer for A-Rod but he’s effectively shut me up from booing for now.
* * *
I am glad that the baseball season is back but it would have been more exciting to open the season with a victory. It was tougher to see the loss combined with a convincing Red Sox win on Opening Day. Red Sox always gloat in victory so Opening Day was no exception.
I do feel more confident with Michael Pineda on the mound Wednesday, however, the team offense needs to step up their game.
Let’s Go, Yankees!
Ready or not, here come the 2015 Yankees…
The Yankees have stayed the course and true to their word, they didn’t purchase any big ticket items this off-season. While I am glad to see that they want to end the ridiculous cycle of overbuying for soon to be past their prime ballplayers, it’s an almost certainty that the Yankees will again miss the post-season this year. There’s always the chance that guys like Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew and Brian McCann play to their prior levels, but really, for everything to come together, the odds are against it.
Max Scherzer might have ensured a few more wins but he would not have made the Yankees a World Series contender. So, perhaps the current path chosen by Yankees management and ownership will ultimately mean a World Series caliber team in a couple of years rather than a few years of a team trying to hang on. I am excited for the future when guys like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino begin their ascent to the Bronx.
I thought the Philadelphia Phillies made a good signing with former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley. There’s a good chance that Billingsley never makes it back from his past injuries, but conversely, there is a small chance that he could. It was a shot worth taking. Granted, this is not exactly Clayton Kershaw that we are talking about, but Billingsley, if right, can help a pitching staff. Meanwhile, the Yankees signed former Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Baker for insurance. I would have preferred to take a flyer on Billingsley.
Another pitcher that I’d probably be interested in for insurance purposes is former Atlanta Braves starter Brandon Beachy. I really liked Kris Medlen but unfortunately so did the Kansas City Royals.
The Yankees need options for the spot in the rotation currently held by Chris Capuano. Of course, Capuano is just a placeholder for the eventual return of Ivan Nova but I don’t really expect Nova to be effective this year when he does. It will probably be 2016 before we start to see the Nova of old. I have heard talk of converting Adam Warren to a starter, but I like the current configuration of the bullpen even with the loss of David Robertson. I expect the Yankees to name Dellin Betances as the closer rather than use a closer committee comprised of Betances and Andrew Miller. Miller should serve as the prime setup guy, with the others, including Warren falling in line.
While I am hopeful that Stephen Drew returns to the player he can be, I still hope that this is the year Rob Refsnyder arrives to take second base.
While former high prospect Austin Romine is out of options, I feel that John Ryan Murphy is better suited to be the Yankees backup catcher. Sadly, Romine will see his Yankees career end in spring training either through trade or release. Hopefully, the Yankees can get something for him when the time comes.
The calendar page is almost ready to turn to February which means that pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting. Even if this will be another disappointing season for the Yankees, the thrill of the spring is always a great time.
What’s the plan?…
Well, it’s January 2015. The Yankees roster is slowly evolving. The latest addition/return was the surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew which certainly makes sense. While I still prefer to see Rob Refsnyder win the second base job outright, Drew certainly provides great insurance at both second base and shortstop. It’s no sure thing that Didi Gregorius will be successful and I’d prefer not to see Brendan Ryan as the only other choice, even if he is a slick fielder.
I am still concerned about the starting rotation. Reading CC Sabathia say the knee is fine is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’ll be the CC of old. I think best case he is a strong #3 in the rotation if he is able to come back healthy. His days as the team’s ace are over…in my opinion. The hope of the rotation lies with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Obviously, there are health concerns with both pitchers. Even though Ivan Nova will return later in the year, I do not expect him to be back up to par until 2016. Nathan Eovaldi is the project. The Yankees apparently think they can turn him around and perhaps they can. It would be good to get him to the point that he is as reliable and consistent as Hiroki Kuroda was.
While I get why the Yankees will not pay $200 million for Max Scherzer, I wish they would make a play for James Shields. With a rotation containing so much uncertainty, the Yankees really need a dependable starter without question marks.
I have heard some rumblings that the Yankees now have the prospects to make a trade for Cole Hamels, but I am not sure that’s one I would pursue. I like prospects such as Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and want to see them succeed in pinstripes. It was tough when I was a kid and the Yankees were always trading youth for veterans. Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Fred McGriff, Al Leiter, J.T. Snow, Brad Ausmus. I know the list is much longer than this, but it was tough watching guys like that succeed elsewhere.
I don’t think that Cole Hamels would be the missing ingredient to suddenly make the Yankees the World Series favorites. So, if he is not the difference maker, then the Yankees shouldn’t raid the cupboards to bring him aboard. I’d rather see Hamels go to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fear of course is that he’ll be calling Fenway Park home next season.
At this point, I still do not see the 2015 Yankees making the play-offs. I think the Baltimore Orioles will still be the team to beat. They suffered off-season losses, yes, but they’ll also be getting back Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters. The Toronto Blue Jays look to be the most improved team and they’ve been a team of potential for a few years. Boston will be stronger, and it’s best to never underestimate the Tampa Bay Rays even if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are no longer calling the shots.
There’s still time for GM Brian Cashman to make the moves to propel the Yankees into contention but so much is riding on better seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira. Of the group, McCann is the only one I feel is capable for turning it around. Beltran and Teixeira are in their decline years, and that slippery slope is steeper for some guys.
Hear the voice of the Bard!…
There’s a nice piece in Nick Cafardo’s column today (Sunday Baseball Notes in The Boston Globe) about the comeback of Daniel Bard. It would be good to see Bard successfully return to his position of bullpen relevance after years of struggle. Perhaps that’s a buy low signing the Yankees should pursue. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. There was a time when Bard was a Yankees draft pick although he never signed. Even if he goes back to Boston or another team, I truly hope that Bard is successful.
Short walk to the Hall…
Congratulations to the Hall of Fame inductees: John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, and Pedro Martinez. I think all of the selections were justified. It was sad that it was the final ballot appearance for Don Mattingly, but it was a given that he was not going to make it. Maybe he can take the Joe Torre route…great managerial success to go with a strong playing career…to gain access to the Hall.
25 years is long enough…
Put me in the group of people who want to see Pete Rose allowed to enter the Hall of Fame. He remains one of the best players I’ve been privileged to see play in my lifetime. This is not an endorsement of Pete the man and I feel what he did was wrong, however, Pete the player was one of the best players of all-time.
I am glad that this is the last full month without any baseball activity. Looking forward to the opening of spring training camps next month.